Dordt College News

Stepping Stones opened September 4

September 10, 2012

The Dordt College education department, Bullfrogs and Butterflies Preschool, and The Learning Ship joined forces this summer and officially opened Stepping Stones Preschool on Tuesday, September 4.

Dr. Timothy Van Soelen, Dordt College professor of education, says the preschool will serve as a place “to assist parents in the social and academic development of their child, to prepare students to enter kindergarten and school readiness, to foster in each child a love for God, to foster in each child a love for learning.”

Not only will this preschool benefit members of the Sioux Center community, but it will also help in the learning process of Dordt education students. Many of them will have the opportunity to spend 100 hours or more teaching in Stepping Stones classrooms. As of this fall, Dordt will offer paraeducator certification in five areas, including Early Childhood.

“Professor Marra approached Dordt with the idea of having the college purchase The Learning Ship Preschool and creating the opportunity for our elementary education majors, specifically those acquiring an early childhood endorsement, a ‘learning by doing’ experience,” said Van Soelen of Gwen Marra, the director of The Learning Ship for 17 years.

Butterflies and Bullfrogs, a private preschool in Sioux Center owned by Dordt alumna Christy Hulstein, shared the mission to provide an excellent, faith-based preschool and also became part of the collaboration.

Stepping Stones Preschool, located in New Life Reformed Church in Sioux Center, had a successful opening last week, with 140 students enrolled and a staff of seven teachers. The ages of students range from 3 to 5 years old.

“Students are so excited to see their name next to a coat hook, to play with some really cool learning toys, and to meet their teachers for the first time,” said Van Soelen. “The rooms looked incredible, and our teachers are as excited as the students. The Open House events and first days of school have been simply wonderful.”

Two Dordt elementary education students have already been placed at Stepping Stones for their work-study assignments, while other Dordt students will start their field-based experience soon.
The staff and council of Stepping Stones Preschool are excited to begin this new venture that will train future teachers and help raise young children in a faith-based learning environment.

“There is a quote from Aristotle that states ‘To learn is a natural pleasure.’ We hope this is true for all students who attend Stepping Stones,” said Van Soelen. “Preschool is a child’s first formal learning experience; we want to provide a sure foundation for many years of learning.”

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